Restore Our American Mustangs Act Passes
Dem 205 47
Rep 33 138
Total 239 185
House votes to save wild horses, burros
By KEVIN FREKING (AP) – 18 minutes ago
WASHINGTON — The House has voted to expand the range of the nation's wild horses and burros by millions of acres and to block a plan to kill thousands of the animals to prevent overgrazing.
The bill passed 239-185 Friday.
Supporters say the additional land and other measurers are needed to free thousands of mustangs and burros from holding pens and to prevent their slaughter.
An estimated 36,000 wild horses and burros live in 10 Western states. Federal officials estimate that's about 9,400 more than can exist in balance with other rangeland resources.
The measure would stop the government from slaughtering healthy horses and prohibit keeping them in holding pens for more than six months.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation's wild horses would be protected from slaughter and given millions more acres to roam under legislation moving toward passage Friday in the House.
Supporters of the bill mobilized after the Interior Department announced last year that it may have to kill thousands of healthy wild horses and burros to deal with the growing population on the range and in holding facilities.
Republicans complained the bill underscores Democrats' misplaced priorities by focusing on animals instead of people, at a time when the nation's unemployment rate is approaching double digits. They also said the measure would place the protection of wild horses and burros above other animals that rely on the rangeland.
"This bill is based on emotion and not science," Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., said during the debate Friday.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that enacting the Restore our American Mustangs Act would cost about $200 million over the next five years. Currently, the wild herds roam over about 33 million acres of Western land.
To comply with the bill, the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management would need to find an additional 20 million acres, primarily after 2013, at a cost of up to $500 million, according the CBO.
Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said the CBO's estimates don't reflect new language in the bill that makes adding millions of acres of rangeland a goal rather than a legal requirement.
Rahall said the bill will actually save the government money because the Bureau of Land Management will be able to reduce resources now devoted to caring for the animals in corrals and on pastures. He said slaughtering healthy animals to control their population should not be an option.
"How in the world can a federal agency be considering the massive slaughter of animals the law says they are supposed to be protecting?" he said.
An estimated 36,000 wild horses and burros live in 10 Western states. The bureau determines how many wild horses can graze in various areas and rounds up the excess numbers to protect the herd. The agency estimates that the current free-roaming population exceeds by about 9,400 the number that can exist in balance with public rangeland resources.
Off the range, more than 31,000 other wild horse and burros are cared for in corrals and pastures.
Supporters of the legislation said their goal is to restore the amount of land available to wild horses when protections were first enacted in 1971. The additional land would make it unnecessary to place so many horses in holding pens, consequently lowering the program's costs. The bill also focuses more resources into an adoption program and on sterilization.
While Rahall said the cost estimates were overblown, Republicans weren't buying it. House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that debating the bill at all was an insult to people looking for work and small businesses trying to keep their doors open.
"It doesn't make any sense that we're debating a welfare program about wild horses when the American people really want to know, where are the jobs?" Boehner said.
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